JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Enrollment in Missouri public schools dropped significantly this fall compared with the 2019-2020 school year, with most of the decline coming in preschool and kindergarten classes, state education officials said.
Enrollment during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic declined to 872,470 students in public preschool through 12th grade this fall. That’s nearly 27,500 students, or 3.2%, fewer than last year.
Previously, public school enrollment saw annual decreases of less than 1% since reaching 900,781 students in 2007.
“We’re exploring whether those students shifted to homeschooling, if they’re now attending a private school that may be offering onsite learning opportunities unlike their public school, or have they simply just not enrolled yet,” said Mallory McGowin, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Enrollment in public preschool fell by 31%, and kindergarten by nearly 10%, across Missouri.
Enrollment determines government funding for schools, but public districts can use the higher attendance count from the previous two years in funding formulas. Steep budget cuts and layoffs could hit next year if students don’t return to public school districts in 2021, McGowin said.